Residents and activists took to the streets to protest against the destruction of their land caused by “illegal” developmental work.
Madikeri, Kodagu: On June 2 about 500 people of all ages came together in the Kodagu district of Karnataka to protest against the “unwanted and unwarranted projects” that are ripping through the landscape of the area. Residents from the district and activists raised the slogan such as “Save Kodagu, Save River Cauvery”. The protest also saw the participation of many organisations, including the Save River Cauvery Forum, Basavana Devarabana Samithi, Field Marshal Kariappa Forum, Coorg Wildlife Society and Cauvery Nadhi Swatchata Andolana.
Destruction due to construction of railways and highways
The region has been going through widespread environmental destruction due to growing industrialisation. In 2015-16, over 54000 trees were felled in Kodagu for the purpose of the construction of the Mysore Khozikode Power Line. The proposals for two railway lines and a National Highway through Kodagu is claimed to cost crores of rupees to the government. The Save River Cauvery Forum, in a memorandum addressed to the deputy commissioner of Kodagu, claimed that there is absolutely no need for the railway lines and the highway as the present roads are in good condition. “The construction will only cause the loss of lakhs of trees and increase the man-elephant conflict and cause more horrific deaths and injuries to the people of Kodagu. There will also be further drastic reduction in the water levels of the KRS Dam due to degradation of the Cauvery catchment. This will serve to drive more poor farmers to debt and suicide across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” the memorandum says.
Illegal constructions on the rise
The protest also addressed a number of illegal land conversions and constructions in Kodagu. Many buildings have come up in the area without the permission of the respective gram panchayats, which points to the blatant corruption by officials. The proliferation of illegal land conversions have resulted in acute water shortage in several parts of Kodagu during the summer months.
The protest march aimed to pressurise the government to stop the destruction in the area and protect the catchment of the river Cauvery from further destruction.
The protest started at the Fort premises in Madikeri, going right on to the Mysore road and then forming a human chain around General Thimmaiah circle before culminating in a town hall. Many activists spoke on the occasion, all agreeing that the projects will affect the river. The memorandum, signed by Col (retd). C.P Muthanna , [resident of Coorg Wild Life Society, clearly said if due action is not taken, the protests will intensify.
Pressure on the authorities
“We demand an assurance that the unwanted railway line and National Highway projects will be cancelled and that there will be an end to further illegal land conversions and constructions in Kodagu. If there is continued injustice to the people of Kodagu, we will be compelled to launch an intense agitation across the district along with downstream farmer’s communities that depend on the Cauvery waters,” the memorandum said.
The activists will meet on June 12 to create a delegation in order to present the memorandum to the chief minister of Karnataka. It will also be brought to the notice of the central government.